When is it appropriate to call in a professional? Most of us go to a mechanic when our car engine needs work. We go to the dentist for work on our teeth, and we often bring in help to repair the roof or the furnace. But what about painting a room? Or making simple repairs to a bicycle? Those are gray areas. What about managing your personal finances? Do you need a financial advisor or can you do it yourself? (For more, see: Shopping for a Financial Advisor.)

While managing finances and planning for the future aren't necessarily rocket science, many of us don't have the time, skills or inclination to do it ourselves. If that's the case, hiring an outside pro is the way to go. (For more, see: 7 Steps to Evaluate a Financial Advisor.)

Need Help?

If you're not sure whether to do it yourself or seek help, this list should help you determine which route to take:

  1. You’re awful with money. You don’t budget, save or invest, all while make a decent living. Clearly, you need help before you dig yourself into a financial hole. An advisor can assist with the most basic of tasks — including how much and where to save — as well as the more sophisticated financial planning areas. If you’re not a money person, but you recognize the importance of financial planning, you will benefit from hiring an advisor. (For more, see: What Financial Plan Makes Sense for You?)
  2. You just received a windfall. Let's say you're doing fine with your $65,000 annual salary, investing 10% in your employer’s 401(k) plan, maintaining an emergency fund, and carrying little debt. You're confident in your ability to manage your money, until you receive an inheritance. After receiving a large sum of money, you may want to hire a financial advisor who can help wade through potential tax implications and devise a plan to best invest funds to meet your future goals (and maybe even spend a bit). (For more, see: How to Manage a Cash Windfall.)
  3. You’re experiencing a life event. Maybe you’re getting married, divorced or considering a career change. These types of life events are stressful and often have significant financial implications. A financial professional can help sort out the money implications and provide financial support and guidance. For example, when getting married it may be helpful to go over basic saving, spending, budgeting, planning and investing issues with an unbiased financial planner. Money can be a touchy subject and a knowledgeable and experienced third party can help a couple plan for the future. (For more, see: Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues.)
  4. You’re terrified of investing. It’s widely accepted that investing in the financial markets is a sound path to saving for retirement and building wealth for the future. If you lack knowledge or are afraid of diving in to the investment markets, a financial advisor can ease you in with information and a conservative path. (For related reading, see: Investing 101: A Tutorial For Beginner Investors.)
  5. You own a business. Owning a business complicates your financial life. A financial advisor can help you sort though and understand all the financial planning issues particular to a business owner. Plus, in the beginning you may need help finding some money to save and invest while building the business. (For more, see: Do Small Business Owners Need Financial Advisors?)

The Bottom Line

There are certain circumstances when you are well advised to go it alone financially. In other cases, a professional is definitely needed. Recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as being aware of your own particular circumstances, will help you determine whether to do it yourself or hire a pro. (For related reading, see: Dispelling 5 Myths About Financial Planners.)

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